Friday, August 17, 2012

Douglas Coupland: Shampoo Planet

Grunge: the angst-ridden rock music named after dirt. This from the decade that brought us Jennifer Aniston's hair.

Written in 1993, it at first appeared that this schizophrenic time would be the focus of Douglas Coupland's Shampoo Planet. Tyler, the protagonist, is obsessed with brand names and shampoo. His mother is an aging political hippie. Plastic versus weed.

And then Coupland introduces another dichotomy. It was an increasingly global village, yet with Tyler leaving California and heading off to France the differences between the historical-minded Europeans and the ambitious, future-oriented Americans takes the forefront.

But what was Coupland's point in all this? Was it to state that people should overcome their differences? To show them how? No, it would seem the point would simply be that such differences existed. Well, duh.

Even the oozing cynicism that opened the first half of the book, which ran the risk of polarizing Coupland's readers but at least would have risked something, stalled. With almost nothing to add beyond questioning whether or not "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" or the other way around, Coupland seemed to fall back of self-indulgent gimmicks (ex. always adding a ® after brand names) and weak, under-developed plots (ex. a love triangle and an abusive relationship).

I'm not surprised this is one of his lesser known works.

(Cross-referenced at the Book Mine Set.)

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